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André de Ruyter had a year from hell – and then he lost his political cover

André de Ruyter had a year from hell – and then he lost his political cover
From left: Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. (Photo: Julia Evans) | Eskom CEO André de Ruyter. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath) | President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

As he faced down sabotage, a week of savage attacks by the Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and a grid in freefall on his own, Eskom’s CEO André de Ruyter quit. He has informed board chairperson Mpho Makwana.

Too shredded by the Phala Phala scandal to defend the Eskom CEO, President Cyril Ramaphosa has gone to ground. State Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was not nominated to the ANC NEC and is politically weakened, so he said nothing, too, as Mantashe trashed Eskom and De Ruyter

Mantashe is Ramaphosa’s key to a second term as ANC President because he is a streetfighter with steel-tipped elbows. Mantashe accused De Ruyter of sabotage as Stage 6 load-shedding gripped the country. South Africa has had almost 200 days of rolling blackouts this year, and Eskom has not communicated a daily status update for days. In November, he called De Ruyter a “policeman” who did not have what it took to run the utility.

De Ruyter resigned after a year ended with units dropping like snowflakes from a Christmas Tree in a warming climate. De Ruyter has had his best year and his worst. Energy and energy transmission reform have finally got into gear, and South Africa’s US$8.5-billion JET Investment Programme was lauded at COP27 in Egypt as best-in-class energy transition thinking.

The former Nampak executive has had a storied career with energy experience at Sasol and took the job as an act of national service in January 2020 and as a critical plank of Ramaphosa’s reform agenda. Three years later, he is out, and so is the grid, which is still coal-reliant. De Ruyter had begun the transition, as the graphic shows.

On December 8, two days after Stage 6 load shedding was announced, Eskom launched a battery energy storage project. In November, the World Bank granted SA a concessional loan to fund the transition from coal to clean fuels. On November 2, Eskom made a huge announcement: a Komati unit would be shut down and repurposed as a renewable energy components manufacturer. It was a swords-to-ploughshares moment which was the apogé of his career at Eskom, now cut short by political attacks.  

On October 28, the Eskom updated transmission development plan was released with 53GW of renewables added to the utility’s planned requirement. This would have been key to expanding transmission. 

It was a sea-change of a year for De Ruyter, whose team fought almost daily battles with saboteurs. The right-hand side of the chart shows what he was up against. 2022 has been the worst year on record for power cuts in South Africa and what the chart reveals is that every time De Ruyter and his team took a step-change forward, the saboteurs struck. 

Between October and December (the period tracked by Daily Maverick), staff and contracted drivers were arrested for picking up high-quality coal and swapping it out for lower-grade ore, diesel theft, or active sabotage. The story has been a constant of his nearly three years at Eskom, and he has had enough. De Ruyter had said previously that Eskom and the country could attribute one or two stages of load-shedding to sabotage.

De Ruyter was a coal man with Sasol, where he ran coal, gas and coal plant operations in SA, China, the Netherlands and Germany. But as he told Daily Maverick’s Gathering earlier this year, the “Stone Age did not end because of a lack of stones”.  

The cost of renewable energy has come down substantially, and the world’s energy map is changing fast – the war in Europe and energy crisis notwithstanding. De Ruyter clicked a long time ago that South Africa’s future lies with a radically mixed energy portfolio with renewable energy playing a big role. 

He came to Eskom as a Mr Fixit with a history of turning around failing companies. But with hostile politics and a constant hostile refrain to his race, he has thrown in the towel.  DM/OBP

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • danny sabbagh says:

    Not good news

    • Kevin Lamprecht says:

      I find it strange that as soon as Andre’s resignation was made pulbic,shedding stages dropped from 5 to 4 , and now it has been announced lately that stage 3 will be implemented on 16/12/2022.
      In my opinion are underground forces at work here, there’s more to this than meets the eye.
      Mantashe has, for the last few months, with the NEC approaching, become more scathing of renewables, and wants to retain the use of coal for power generation. Why is that?
      ANC politics at its best – to hell with what’s good for the country, only what’s good for theParty is important.

  • Stef Viljoen Viljoen says:

    Aaaaaaand the looting can continue with less stress…….

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Coincidence that this is playing out whilst a subterfuge, clandestine operation involving a Russian supply ship off-loads and then collects cargo in Simonstown?

    The darker side of the ANC is intent on placing SA firmly into the sphere of Russia and their “state capture” philosophy. Zuma sees himself as an southern hemisphere Abramovich, with Malema becoming the corrupt, drug-dealing warlord.

    It is how they see themselves extricating themselves from justice; wake up South Africa and properly smell the coffee.

    • Easy Does It says:

      I believe the Russians are a decoy for the Chinese to fund Eskom coal. Russians want nuclear deal. ANC benefits from coal corruption. DA will keep nuclear honest.

  • David Mark says:

    Awful news, but not unexpected. We all know Gwede and the corrupt are salivating at the new money coming in for the energy transition. Oh and when they said it must be a “just” transition, the ANC meant it as “we’ll just steal 70% this time”. This country is a disaster thanks to ANC policy, cadre deployment, and people who only care about filling their pockets.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Gwede Mantashe is a racist, it’s as simple as that. The one thing that gave me hope through this entire loadshedding debacle was that at least De Ruyter was at the helm…a man that could be trusted and not some BEE screw up.
    So. Now we know…weapons from SA to Russia and a nuclear deal for South Africa from Russia in exchange! No more wondering why a Russian vessel was smuggled into Simonstown secretly under the cover of darkness during loadshedding! Thank you Mr De Ruyter for trying to save what was once a great SOE against all odds!

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    I wonder when we tax and rate payers are going to have had enough and revolt against what is happening in this country? We have rights and perhaps a Class Action for compromised rights, stolen contributions and no delivery would be a solution. We’re getting nothing in return for our contributions anyway so perhaps we should be giving nothing in the first place!

  • Lesley Young says:

    Shame! If he can’t fix it, because the anc for some reason is blocking his ability, the no one can. Bye bye Eskom, shut it down. Bloody colonialist technology, we don’t need it. Let us all go back to traditional African technology, holes in the ground and burning trees.

    • Matsobane Monama says:

      Yes, you are correct, Traditional African holes in the ground and burning trees. We still hv trees in Abundance, the only very very serious problem is that, they are not in African hands. Lesley if you are not leaving anytime soon, lets just hv hope we find someone to fix the mess @ ESKOM. It’s our ONLY home.

  • Sue Grant-Marshall says:

    Sabotage; death threats; brutal attacks by coal-loving-Gwede Mantashe; no support from President Cyril Ramaphosa – what sane person would stick around for more! De Ruyter has sacrificed three years of his life for….what? Shame on you Mantashe. Shame on you ANC.

  • Luan Sml says:

    Mr. De Ruyter I can’t blame you for resigning, but I really felt hopeful with you at the helm of Eskom, I don’t feel that hope tonight…😔
    Dirty, dangerous politics is at play now, we are all at sea …in a Russian ro-ro in Simonstown!
    We have a government both shameful and shameless, we all deserved better, so did you!

  • Neil Parker says:

    Disastrous. The brightest star in Eskom trashed by the dimmest of the dim in the ANC.

  • Smudger Smiff says:

    This is just a further step toward anarchy and the demise of the nation state.
    The Western Cape is now our only safe haven.
    Please support the fight for secession.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    Blind racism coupled with failed communist ideology . Mantashe has no understanding whatsoever about anything other than petty party politics. He and his kind have poverty as their achievement.
    We will overcome this.

  • Elizabeth Lightfoot says:

    This is a tragedy of note. We are in uncharted territory now.

  • Colin Attwell says:

    Is it not abundantly clear, in all this darkness, that Mantashe is the boulder in the coal pile?

  • Peter Doble says:

    The country was already beyond the eve of destruction – with morons like Mantashe & co calling the shots, we can all be sure that the road to hell has just got shorter. Genuinely optimistic solutions are one thing; watching self inflicted suicidal annihilation is sheer lunacy.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    He probably had a few more death threats and useless Gwede controlled the floor. JO retiring next April 2023 so the “confidence” with Eskom will pass to the new “quiet as a mouse board”. Stage 7 and 8 on the way.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    SA speciality- the mass manufacture of the most stupid, wayward and thieving people. Add racists too – from the odious Mantashe, putrid EFF, the idiotic Black Lawyers Forum etc. All they see and care about – why is a white man be employed to head an SOE? De Ruyter never had a chance as he always had to watch his back and faced huge pushback when trying to neutralise the patronage network, so prevalent in this country’s ruling party and DNA. Then out comes the most stupid statement from a highly idiotic dinosaur – Mantashe – De Ruyter is hell bent on sabotage by taking the government down!! It is you Mantashe and your vile corrupt party and government who are sabotaging this country, taking it down, betraying all its people and who have stolen it blind!! The hypocrisy, racism and stupidity reign supreme and trump all else.

  • Arnold Nardy says:

    Mantashe must go. In his own words ” He’s nothing but a trade unionist who does not have what it takes to be a minister”

  • NICK GREENE says:

    This event is well timed for the morally and intellectually corrupt Mantashe and is ilk. Immediately prior to the Arrogant Nepotism Corruption party conference. Also, he’ll claim a reduction in load shedding over the next few days as his actions, whereas the factual truth is that SA industry begins its annual shutdown (read “demand for power”) today. His moral compass is like a ceiling fan.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      You have made a great point there …he will definitely claim success based on the Infrastructure Christmas shutdown! As wily as a fox with the morals of an alley cat!

      • Tods The Toed says:

        Lest us collectively hold our breaths,in the dark of course, at least until end of March 2023. Andre is not leaving immediately and hopefully some mysterious ailment will befall some of these buffoons ,and they loose their ability to verbalise their putrid vomitus. It’s only a Christmas wish.

  • Gerhardus de Jager says:

    Mantashe will sink this ship single handed.

  • Barrie Lewis says:

    It’s significant that dozens of top black executives turned down the post before De Ruyter was appointed; if ever there was a poisoned chalice, CEO of Eskom was it, and they knew it. De R was the only one with the guts to take it on; a true patriot.

    No white executive will be approached obviously, or appointed and the only black executives that I can think of that might accept are Molefe and Koko; instead of sending them to prison, set them up again at Eskom; serves them right. They will soon plead rather to be sent to Pollsmore.

    Grid failure (load shedding is just a euphemism) will again decrease for a time, they can get the Guptas back into the action, and then we can all live happily ever after.

    Actually in truth this will all be good for the planet, if not for the vast majority of South Africans. Those who can will put up solar panels and get off the grid; happy the day we made that decision. The hapless poor will always be with us and now more than ever be the real losers.

  • Alley Cat says:

    What a tragedy! My company deals with Eskom and we have seen a change (though slow) in procurement and some (not enough) procurement people being fired for corruption.
    I guess now we go back to the trough feeding frenzy.
    Interestingly, some competitors who were ex Eskom were betting that he wouldn’t last 6 months. Well he lasted 3 years. We will sorely miss him, but I cannot blame him.
    Now to see who the BBC, Mantashe etc. will blame after he’s gone and when things REALLY go down the toilet? IF they find anyone insane enough to take this job?
    As a side note, I have lost respect for Pravin. I thought he was one of the few in the ANC with the balls to stand up and defend the Eskom board, but he has gone very quiet lately. We are headed nowhere!

    • Hilary Ginsberg says:

      Pravin Gordhan was also given a hard time by the cadres . He also has had enough!
      Don’t blame him or the brave Andre de Ruyter. They gave it all they could.

  • David A says:

    I’m impressed he stuck it out as long as he did!

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Good morning Mr Mantashe. When Mr De Ruyter looked in the mirror this morning, he saw the resilient honest face of a man who had tried his best. What did you see, Gwede, really?

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    Wishing Mr De Ruyter very well in the future. He held out longer than many would have and undoubtedly has made a positive difference, and for that I am very grateful.

  • Hiram C Potts says:

    Intelligence, cognitive ability, competence, integrity and financial literacy are all prerequisites for making informed political and financial decisions, and running a country’s economy.

    Looking at the menagerie of inept, corrupt buffoons that occupy positions of power from the top down in SA’s govt, short of some cataclysmic event, how can anyone even begin to think that we’re going get out of this shambolic mess anytime soon.

  • Anne Felgate says:

    What a brave man. I do not blame him at all. Hopefully his security detail will still be around for some time after he has left.
    He has done so much good
    We owe him

  • hfowle says:

    Gwede has managed to dig the ANC grave a little deeper.

  • Confucious Says says:

    ANC game plan: Get rid of De Ruyter and bring laodshedding down by not doing any more maintenance. At face value, ANC looks good, but the next breakdown will be a major catastrophe and the blame will be placed on De Ruyter.

  • Hilary Morris says:

    What an utter disaster. An honest man, doing his best to serve his country with the added disadvantage of being white. He didn’t stand a chance. We will live to regret this. It’s just surprising how long he managed to hang in there.

  • Johann Crafford says:

    And so the tragic saga of South Africa under the ANC continues. You cannot fix what you don’t acknowledge, and as long as the ANC refuses to take responsibility for their many failures and incompetence, nothing will change. Cry the beloved country, tjank dat die snot spat!

  • Mary Hammond-Tooke says:

    Mantashe has been angling for his Turkish powerships…….

  • Jacobus Van der Vlies says:

    Never fear Mantash is near! He will end out electricity problems, even though he himself is not an engineer! Lets wait and see, and should he fail, remember to keep him accountable.

  • Gavin Brown says:

    Not even a hint of understanding – just plain old fashioned racism from an ageing trade union boss ! He’s getting his way – just watch all the YouTube vlogs from saffas in New Zealand, Australia, UK, etc.
    Industrial strength mental thickness.

  • Nos Feratu says:

    While the resignation of de Ruyter is a tragedy for the country nobody is looking at Gweedy’s motive. It’s very simple …. collapse Eskom and install Karpowerships where he has a cosy kickback deal.

  • Matsobane Monama says:

    Perhaps we should wait for de Ruyter’s explanation why we he resigned or was pushed out.

  • Mohammed Junaid Kader says:

    Last night I didn’t see the end of the match with England and Morocco due to loadshedding. The problem we must all face as South Africans.

  • Petrus Kleinhans says:

    If ordinary South Africans don’t vote these hooligans out of power then THEY are responsible for destroying the hope of a safe, prosperous, and civilized future in this country. Here is the legacy of the ANC: corruption at SOEs and every level of government, organized crime infestation, failure of health services, failure of education, loss of electricity supply, loss of safe water supply, failure of road maintenance, one of the poorest economies in the developing world, a continuous exodus of the best and brightest young minds. This is what the ANC has delivered after almost 30 years in power. This is the ticket they are taking to the election. No honest South African who has any self-respect can vote for this.

  • Helen Swingler says:

    Give us an early Christmas gift and resign Mr Mantashe. It’s high time you went to pasture and left the energy future of this country in younger, abler, qualified hands, with an eye on their future. Attending a graduation ceremony yesterday, there were scores and scores of bright young people of all colour and creed, many highly qualified. One can only wonder how they view their future. Unfortunately, this is the inheritance they will receive, having already had to pick the rotten fruits of the apartheid regime. They have been sold down the river once again. As has Mr De Ruyter.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Cowboys don’t cry. If you are paid better part of R1m a month you need a thick skin and you get on with doing the right thing until the shareholders fire you.

  • Karin Swart says:

    De Ruyter never had a chance of success and it had nothing to do with his race or any political back-stabbing. NO-ONE can fix a problem that has been building up for years (since 2009) in so little time. Added to that is the continuous, almost daily sabotage and theft – ESKOM will never be able to recover. And they are broke. Money could be saved by letting at least 30% of the staff (those that don’t really do anything) go, immediately disconnecting defaulting customers and municipalities and taking legal steps to recover monies owed and lastly, perhaps the most difficult one, disconnecting all illegal connections and keep on disconnecting them if they “pop up” again. This must all be done IN ADDITION to proper, verified maintenance, maintenance, maintenance.

  • Gregory Scott says:

    Mr. De Ruyter, thank you for your supreme effort.
    There is no doubt in my mind that there are political and criminal forces involved in treasonous activities to ensure a continued cancerous environment of capture, theft, pilfering, price gouging and many other illegal activities by both staff, contractors and gangsters.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Never had a chance the looters are well entrenched in Eskom and the ANC too many “interests”

  • Fritz Eckl says:

    Be strong André, no worries, people like Gwede are political thugs empowered only by the colour of their skin!

  • kerryvs says:

    De Ruyter never stood a chance from the word go. Being a white male and trying to root out corruption, was one of his first mistakes, borne out by the militant head of the trade union who accused him of “targeting” certain ” people” (of course using race as the basis of her argument). Eskom is still so rotten to the core, that anyone who tries to ” clean up”, especially if they are white, will be expelled. As for the communist Mantashe & Gordhan, they are only in it for themselves & are both completely morally bankrupt. At the end of the day, De Ruyter should be relieved to get out of that cesspool & let the ANC plunge us into complete darkness.

  • Andrew McWalter says:

    Andre’ De Ruyter’s departure from Eskom is just another misstep in the litany of catastrophes brought upon SA by the ANC. Although their days are numbered, the ANC is irreversibly on its way out. Other attempts by other parties will step in, failing as often as they don’t. Dragging an entire country into modernity and attempting to educate it at the same time is no small task. The deeply embedded culture of patriarchy within SA’s disparate tribal communities will fight at every level to preserve their male-dominated privilege. Empowering women, an important antidote to this repressive regime, will be met with stiff resistance as men, in fear of losing their entitlement, will try to destabilise the empowerment of their women. Taking on the hard work of discarding the unhelpful elements of their own tribal culture in favour of reinventing themselves as relevant, meaningful and contributing members to a new and better society, will be a hard journey, both for themselves and for society at large. Will the journey be worth it? Maybe attempting it is the only reward there is.

  • John Forbes says:

    Amazingly, after promising to drop from Stage 5 to Stage 4 with the announced departure of Andre de Ruyter, we are suddenly back on Stage 6 loadshedding as the reality strikes home.

    Do not be surprised if shortly after de Ruyter final departure from the premises in three months time, and the Comrades take back total control without any brakes, if we do not have a total Blackout which will take weeks to get the network up and running again.

    Total failed state, here we come!

  • SAM VAN WYK says:

    The policeman has resigned! aloota continue!

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